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Guide to Edinburgh's Restaurants
(and other essentials for food lovers)

This version now obsolete. Go to www.finewinediary.com/restaurants/edguide.shtml

Edited by Toby Bailey and Lucy Young
Emeritus Editor: Alison Etheridge

Introduction

This guide was originally written for groups of conference participants visiting Edinburgh. It was intended as a short list of places that could be relied upon to provide something decent, so that the visitors could avoid the appalling consequences of incautious exploration of British restaurants. Now we are not involved with conferences, it is just our personal restaurant guide. There are of course many excellent places not mentioned, owing probably to ignorance on our part, and doubtless some will disagree about some that we do include. Comments are very welcome by E-mail to Toby Bailey, but we only include places we have been to ourselves.

We have been delaying updating this guide, thinking it needs more work, but the previous version was getting so out-of-date that we decided to put this on line even if it is incomplete.


Contents
Bistros Asian restaurants
Italian restaurants Vegetarian restaurants
For the serious eater Cafes
Other "Musts" for the gourmet

Bistros

Pierre Victoire (10 Victoria Street, EH1. Tel: 225 1721) This is the original of the chain that spread and then collapsed. Apparently it is being relaunched, along more conventional lines. (The original featured more-or-less well-executed French food served cheaply but completely chaotically.) Reports welcome. The founder of the original chain has now started again with a place called bleu (not to be confused with "blue" - see below).

blue (Cambridge Street, EH1. Tel: 221 1222) Blue continues to set the standard in Edinburgh for reasonably price food (although the prices are creeping up), and it must surely embarrass a lot of places charging rather more. Open all day, every day, and one of the few places where you can get good food after an evening at the theatre, or whatever. Witty, but usually well-executed food.

Hadrian's (2, North Bridge, EH1. Tel: 557 5000) Now essentially a bistro. We've heard that it serves the best fish and chips in town!

Several pubs on the shore at Leith serve reasonable food, particularly fish. Most are open on Sundays.

Asian restaurants

Most Asian (and particularly Indian) restaurants in Britain serve identical dull food of no culinary interest. People believe they are cheap, but is is amazingly easy to spend sums of money that would buy you a proper meal on food of about the standard of a supermarket ready-meal. When will one of them cook a proper, short menu of dishes cooked to order rather than the huge mix-and-match collection, presumably mostly frozen?

Ayutthaya (14b Nicholson Street, EH8. Tel: 556 9351) Cosy and relaxed Thai restaurant, convenient for the University.

Jasmine (32 Grindlay Street, EH3. Tel: 299 5757) This seems to have changed its name (from "Loon Fung") recently, but it looks the same, and we assume it is still the same owners. Pre and post performance haunt of theatre and concert goers, serving good versions of the standard Chinese fare.

New Edinburgh Rendezvous (Queensferry Street, EH2. Tel: 225 2023) Up a flight of dingy stairs is a cavernous Chinese restaurant. Staff are distant and seemingly uninterested, but efficient. The food is a pretty good version of standard British-Chinese.

Siam Erewan (48 Howe Street, EH3. Tel: 226 3675) Probably the best Thai food in town. Booking recommended. The cheap and cheerful "Erewan Express" in Rose Lane does a decent lunch too. We hear reasonable reports of their new venture just off St Andrews Square, too.

The main interest these days of the Cavalry Club (Atholl Place, West End) seems to be the waiters' being dressed as soldiers. On the other hand, rumours reach us that one can get a decent meal in the West End Balti (West Maitland St.).

Finally, the Indian places in the vegetarian section are at least as good as those above.

Italian restaurants

Valvona & Crolla (18 Elm Row, EH7. Tel: 556 6066) Valvona & Crolla is THE place to go for Italian food. Sadly, the cafe is only open for breakfast and lunch, Monday to Saturday (see entry under "Other musts for the gourmet"). You can book for weekday lunch. It is a complete zoo on Saturdays, and you need to be there by noon to be sure of getting a seat without queuing. Prices seem to be rising here, and we hope the continuing popularity will not lead to a decline in standards.

Beware of Italian restaurants in Edinburgh; it is mostly overcooked, supermarket pasta with regulation Brit-Ital sauces. Two that stand out a bit from the crowd are:

Librizzi's Now in a new location?

Tony Romas (42 St Stephen Street, EH3. Tel: 226 5877) Small and lively Stockbridge restaurant which usually has a range of fresh fish "dishes of the day".

Beyond these, Hanover Street has a mass of Pizza and pasta joints serving the usual cliches to about the usual standard. We can't really see the point - it's no cheaper than a proper meal.

Pizza Express are invading! They are open now open on Queensferry Street, North Bridge and Deanhaugh Street in Stockbridge. They don't take bookings. Much as we detest chains, we make an exception for Pizza Express, mainly because of the dismal quality of the alternatives!

Vegetarian restaurants

Annpurna (45 St. Patricks Square, EH8. Tel: 662 1807) An alternative to Kalpna just across the road. Similar quality, different style (and no buffet lunch).

Hendersons (9 Hanover Street, EH2. Tel: 225 2131) Ancient Edinburgh Institution that is perhaps not what it once was. We once overheard someone ask: "Could you tell me what is in the courgette and butter bean bake", which sums it up quite well. Large array of healthy looking vegetarian dishes. ("Looks a bit wodgy to me" - A. Carnivore)

Kalpna (2/3 St Patricks Square, EH8. Tel: 667 9890) Another Edinburgh favorite that periodically appears in the national press, and seems to maintain its high standards year after year. Buffet lunch for five pounds is a bargain too. ("I'd rather eat here than most of the non-veggy Indians" - A. Carnivore.)

For the serious eater

The Atrium (10 Cambridge Street, EH1. Tel: 228 8882) On average, about as good as any food in town over the last few years. A bit up-and-down (in a mild way) recently perhaps and there have been a lot of changes of staff here. (See also their cafe outlet blue upstairs.)

(fitz)HENRY (19 Shore Place, Leith. Tel: 555 6625) Opened with a bang a few years ago serving innovative food cooked by a talented young chef. A not universally popular move towards a more French style followed, but now the kitchen seems to have settled down and on our last visit the kitchen was performing pretty well. (We believe this has moved -- must check!)

La Potiniere (Main Street, Gullane. Tel: 843214) Michelin starred restaurant 15 miles outside Edinburgh. Great food and a legendary wine list (although enthusiasts seem to have drunk most of it now).

Martins (70 Rose Street, North Lane, EH2. Tel: 225 3106) Once you find it, it's well worth the effort. Serious food, enthusiastic proprietor - another Edinburgh insitution. Don't on any account miss the cheese board. One can sometimes feel that the chef is cooking for a living rather than for a reputation.

Restaurant Martin Wishart (54 The Shore, Leith. Tel: 553 3557) Martin Wishart trained with the big names in London, arrived in Edinburgh as chef for Hadrians at the Balmoral, and is now going it alone. The food is very ambitious, but the chef clearly has the ability to carry it off. Lots of shellfish, fois gras, and other good things feature on a short menu with three or four choices for each course. This is at least as good as anything in town!

Vintner's Rooms (The Vaults, 87 Giles Street, EH6. Tel: 554 6767) Fine food in a gorgeous old building in the port of Leith. As good as anything in town, if Tim Cumming himself is in the kitchen. If not, it seems to be increasingly hit and miss. Underneath the Scottish Malt Whisky Society (also worth a visit).

Cafe St. Honore (34 Thistle St Lane North, EH2. Tel: 226 2211) Just makes it into the serious eater section - a bit cheaper than some, but a decent dinner usually. Obscure locatiion means one can often get a table when other places are full.

Winter Glen (3A1 Dundas St, EH3. Tel: 624 7087) Seems to have made it into the Good Food Guide this year, but we couldn't help feeling it had snuck in under the radar. Somebody is clearly making an effort, but the food is not really much above average. Service is provided by a huge staff (which may account for the prices) with a slightly haphazard mixture of formality and slapdash.

Number One (Balmoral Hotel, Princes St. EH1. Tel: 557 8740) The food here is generally excellent now Jeff Bland is cooking (but with occasional misjudgements, and his puddings tend not to be interesting). The "market menu" is good value, but we were a bit suprised to discover it unchanged for two vists nearly a month apart. The wine list had a lot of good stuff (at prohibitive prices) but Rocco Forte seems to have decided to centralise his group wine buying with some mediocre organisation and we fear for the future.

Warning: A word of advice for those of you considering Scottish "theme" restaurants in the town centre - DON'T!

Cafes

Stop Press: Coffee seems to be arriving in Edinburgh! Cafes are springing up all over, most of them have a proper espresso machine, and many are even putting decent coffee in them. A good example is the little Espresso Bar in the Grassmarket. Don't forget also blue in the restaurant section also functions as a cafe.

Florentine (8 St Giles Street, EH1. Tel: 225 6267 and 5 North West Circus Place, EH6 Tel: 220 0225) OK food all day, decent coffee. Unfortunately, this is another Edinburgh institution which has expanded at the expense of quality control.

Clarinda's Tea Rooms (69 Canongate, EH8. Tel: 557 1888) Well, if you really want a traditional British tea, here it is, conveniently situated for visits to Holyrood House. Open on Sundays.

Glass and Thompson (Dundas Street, EH3. Tel: 557 0909/9888) Reliable Italianate snack menu, with olive oil on the table. Smartly designed place, with newspapers to read, and it serves one of the few really decent coffees. Good place for Sunday lunch.

Festival Theatre Cafe (Nicholson Street, EH8. Tel: 662 1112) Striking building (at least from the front) and useful after browsing in Thin's bookshop. Coffee not to bad if you don't think about it.

The Elephant House (21 George IV Bridge, EH1. Tel: 220 5355) Lots of elephants, and (more or less) reasonable coffee. Worth it, just about, for the view of the castle, but they are a bit inclined towards playing continual loud Musak.

The Seattle Coffee Company(Waterstones Bookshop, 128 Princes St EH1, and Edinburgh Solicitors' Property Centre, 85 George St EH2.) The Seattle Coffee Company has branches quite close together in the New Town, one in a bookshop (very civilised), and one imaginatively placed in the basement of what one might call Edinburgh's premier house shop. The admirable idea buying good local food rather than the usual chain fare of standardised mediocrity seems to have gone now the chain has been absorbed byStarbucks

Decorative venues

The first of these especially is worth a visit just for a look:

Cafe Royal (17 West Register Street, EH2 Tel: 557 4792) By the way, "West register street" is one of those things that doctors used to ask you to say to see if you are confused. So don't try and get a taxi to here after a heavy evening.

Tiles (1 St Andrew's Square, EH2 Tel: 558 1507)

Other "Musts" for the gourmet

Cheese Shop (30a Victoria Street, EH1. Tel: 226 6215) Iain Mellis sells a wonderful selection of British farmhouse cheeses. Taste before you buy and discover what things like Lancashire tasted like before it was made in factories. The grocers shop in Bruntsfield is also excellent, and is a source of excellent bacon, among other things.

La Sologne (Victoria Street EH1) This bakers shop is next to the Cheese Shop. Ownership has changed, but James's bread is excellent (except for oddly brick-like rye loaves) and the tarts and other things supplied by Bertrand are excellent.

Valvona & Crolla (19 Elm Row, EH7. Tel: 556 6066) Great Italian delicatessen, not cheap for everything, but a shining collection of all that's good to eat. "Continental Roast" is the best coffee in the known universe. Also great for lunch - see above.


Lucy and Toby Bailey